The distillation of lavender for essential oil is in full swing this time of year. The old copper still gets a lot of attention when we run it on the street next to our store in Yamhill, Oregon. The fragrance is amazing and the aroma weaves it’s way all through the town.
The still is an old alcohol distiller that has been converted to use for essential oil distillation. It holds about 100 lbs of lavender at a time. The amount of essential oil it produces depends on the variety of lavender. Some are big producers and some are not. Often the lower quantity essential oil producers give us the higher quality essential oils. We use the lavender essential oil as well as other essential oils in many of the products we craft. We also sell lavender essential oil to other crafters. We have recently begun to use the lavender essential oil in foods. More on that another time.

The gentleman you see in the picture is our good buddy Butch. We call him our “master distiller” because of his skill with the still and his endless enthusiasm for distilling essential oils. He always shows up with a smile. Butch is a true treasure and a true friend.

Butch has built his own mini distillers at home. The first one he made using an old pressure cooker. It worked but he didn’t think it worked well enough so he built another largely from scrap metal he had around his place. The second one has a truly unique design and works well. Next he’s going to build himself a “real” still. I’m sure it will be wonderful and work well. After years of research and experimentation it’s bound to.

Butch likes to distill so much that he has distilled just about every tree, shrub and weed around his place to see what, if any, essential oil they will produce. His neighbors vegetation is fair game too. He has three different cedar trees so of course he had to distill a batch of each. Interesting thing is the essential oils produced are distinctly different from each other even though they are all three cedar trees. Each variety of lavender can produce distinctly different essential oils also. Some are nice and some are not. Some don’t even produce enough essential oil to be worth the effort.

We have been using the still more and more for demonstration and educational purposes at festivals and events. Our Yamhill Valley Lavender Festival being one of them. Everyone is fascinated by how it works and the still always draws a crowd. People also develop an understanding of why essential oils can be so expensive when they see what a small amount of essential oil comes out of that big still.

Many lavender farms around Oregon are distilling lavender essential oil these days. Many have small table top distillers and some have bigger ones like us. As with most things lavender – it’s impossible to compete with imported essential oil when it comes to price but there is something very satisfying in making and using your own essential oils. For the love of lavender…

August 23, 2006